According to Harman “A normative theory of value might include an account of when something’s being the case would or would not be a ‘good thing’, a ‘worthwhile thing’, or a ‘desirable thing’”. Although this is one of the definitions of value theory− a normative one− it is sufficient for us to understand what “value” is. I say “understand” because it is not a definition of value. It is the definition of the valued, a valuable thing. Then there occurs a difficulty in discussing ethical problems, whenever we talk about intrinsically good, intrinsic properties. The definitions of value, good, intrinsic, right, true are not in the proper way we seek for. This proper way, though differing from philological way, must be as simple and understandable. Good is good, intrinsic is intrinsic, value is value, true is true. These definitions are the best, analytic, useful ones I have learned till now. Where do we know we could not know it? (It refers to good, value, love, desire, pain, yellow etc.) The answer is, we don’t know, hence still the labor to seek for a definition is not considered as unnecessary and inutile. “The late date at which most of the physical sciences became exact, and the comparative fewness of the laws which they have succeeded in establishing even now, are sufficient proofs of this difficulty.”
Case studies about “intrinsic value”
Is there at least one thing existing that is intrinsically valuable? We know how we know intrinsic and value. However, we feel free to go a step further to intrinsic value. I am going to consider that we have no problems with definitions.
Case I: The misprinted stamp
At first glance one can see that it is not intrinsically valuable. If you take out human, the observer from the scene, then the object in hand− the misprinted stamp− loses its value. I conclude that the value is not intrinsic. However, unlike Beardsley, I think that this value is instrumental. Possessing “the” misprinted stamp takes you what also winning a competition takes you to. You become the one, the one who has the misprinted stamp in his hands. It is like possessing the prototype Ferrari, the only Ferrari in that composition. There is a feeling, whatever it is, i.e. ego, which makes a person get more eagerly something which is rare. Hence, collecting stamps has instrumental value. We can conclude that, having a rare stamp has instrumentally more valuable than having an abundant one. The idea is parallel with conserving species those are more threatened, vulnerable to extinction and rare. It is important for a conservationist to maintain the existence of the species members; however it is more important to conserve a rare, charismatic, exotic species. All these cases are instrumentally valuable relative to an observer, there is nothing in life as ideal observer.
The ideal observer as Beardsley cited in his paper intrinsic value as
Weighing exactly one pound is explicated in terms of being equal in weight to a standard pound; and the latter turns out to be a complicated conditional about what would happen under ideal weighing conditions (admitting that the ideal conditions cannot all be specified). Thus “X weighs exactly one p o d 7 means (approximately) “X would be found to be one pound in weight by an Ideal Weigher, under Ideal Conditions, with an Ideal Scale, etc., etc.” And similarly, “X has intrinsic value” turns out to be equivalent to a complex conditional to the effect that X would be prized by an Ideal Observer, defied by all the necessary accoutrements and qualifications of such an individual.”
Case II: Dialectical demonstration
One misleading demonstration− existence of at least one thing that is intrinsically valuable− can be simulated as follows. X confers value to Y and Y borrows its value from X. Y confers value to Z; Z borrows its value from Y. Then at the beginning, one can think that, there must be something that is intrinsically valuable, that borrows no value from something else and only confers value. This stems from the image in our minds which can be visualized as …->X->Y->Z->… in which there exists a linear, one dimensional relationship between X, Y and Z. However, in life, relations are much more complicated. Think of two dots in space and call them X and Y. Let the distance between these points to be r. X and Y has a confer-borrow relationship. Now if we think about new infinitely many points at differing distances and angles with respect to X. With the idea at the end, a space, has no start or end point, there is only an interconnected, coherent structure.
We all have goals, and these goals determine the value of the objects. We have a start and we have an end. It is hard to say that there exists an intrinsically valuable thing. In good analogy with yellow, what we perceive is not the same thing, what we name is the same. What we perceive as good is not the same. What we listen, what we see. All things are according, relative to the observer. We are the ones who constitute philosophy, hence, thinking a stamp in the absence of an observer is nonsense, we say thinking, and in the absence of the observer. These are two conflicting ideas.
This article is about:
- intrinsic value philosophy definition